Chile's forward Mauricio Pinilla (L) challenges Brazil's midfielder Luiz Gustavo. Photo: Getty
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Much like the country, Brazil’s performance against Chile was both heaven and hell

Simon Schama bissects a tale of two halves: Brazil’s nail-biting victory over Chile.

Those of us who love Brazil know it’s heaven and hell and not much in between. Silky music, feijoada (a kind of heaven if cooked right) but also egrets wading in open sewage by the side of the road leading from Sao Paulo to the city; the kids who offer to “look after your car” in Rio, the alternative being they will really look after it.

So it was in the two halves of the Chile match. Musical moves: Neymar leaving defenders lead-booted; Fernandinho, skipping around; David Luiz getting his thigh round that ball at the goalmouth (even if it gets to be an OG); their midfield on some springy wire that pinged them back and forth on high voltage. Chile – tough, sinewy, and capable of seizing the moment as that equaliser proved. But as with many Brazilian sides their besetting sin is a kind of wounded vanity when the play goes against them. Scolari was evidently right to want to describe Chile as a “pain”. They know how to inflict it at the right moment. But that first half was so good, so fluid, so high voltage, so intense, that the players weren't the only ones drained at the end of it. I was reaching for the Gruner Veltliner for medical help.

And then in part two, it was as if a completely alien gang were wearing the yellow shirts; or they’d fallen under the influence of some Amazonian potion. Neymar disappeared. There were so many aimless long balls that I felt I was looking at Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England. The antelopes were being outrun, out-everythinged by the snappy terriers. The Brazilian midfield melted away. It was all very very strange. The one exception was Hulk for whom magnificent is inadequate – playing as though he knew everyone else had taken the day off to go to the beach and he’d have to do it all himself. Which he very nearly did. This way and that, brilliant swerves and feints. The terrier of terriers was Alexis Sancheza rush of hard, savvy energy; so dangerous, so suddenly. As regular time ebbed, it was impossible not to have mixed feelings. Chile settled for playing it out, but the Pinilla shot was so powerful it deserved to find the net. Extra time – just a lot of very tired men spending a lot of energy in courting fouls (and succeeding).

You felt for the goalkeepers: both had stirring games; both at penalty time were on the firing line; both produced nails bitten to the quick heroics of impulse (even if a lot of those penalties were aimed straight at them). In the end, poor Jara only just missed that goalpost-struck shot going sidelong into the net. There were Inca faces set in tragic stone. The Forro is heaving up north. But only those of us who were taught samba for our bar mitzvah can actually believe Brazil has what it takes to win this World Cup. On the other hand, maybe Neymar can play like Tom Jobim sang and do it for the full ninety minutes.

This article first appeared on newrepublic.com

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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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